time I want to try and help young Christians in relation
to two words which are the great words of the Christian
life: 'heavenly' and 'faith'. You will have noticed, if
you know the Letter to the Hebrews at all, that these are
two of the most prominent words in it.
word 'heavenly', in its different forms, occurs quite a
number of times in this Letter:
"Wherefore, holy brethren, companions of a
heavenly calling" (Hebrews 3:1).
"Having then a great high priest, who hath passed
through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God" (Hebrews
"For as touching those who were once enlightened
and tasted of the heavenly gift" (Hebrews 6:4).
"Now in the things which we are saying the chief
point is this: We have such a high priest, who sat
down on the throne of the Majesty in the
heavens" (Hebrews 8:1).
"Who serve that which is a copy and shadow of the
heavenly things" (Hebrews 8:5).
"It was necessary therefore that the copies of
the things in the heavens should be cleansed with these:
but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices
than these" (Hebrews 9:23).
"But now they desire a better country, that is, a
heavenly" (Hebrews 11:16).
"To the general assembly and church of the
first-born who are enrolled in heaven, and to God the
judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made
perfect" (Hebrews 12:23).
"Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he
hath promised, saying, Yet once more will I make to
tremble not the earth only, but also the heaven" (Hebrews
see, the Letter has a lot to say about heavenly things,
and here, in chapter three, it says that we are called in
relation to these heavenly things. Our calling is a
heavenly calling, unto a heavenly life: not after this
life, but now.
I am not
going to cite all the occurrences of the word 'faith'! It
has a very large place in this Letter, and, as you know,
one whole chapter is given up to faith - chapter eleven.
these two words: 'heavenly' and 'faith', and they are
very difficult words for young Christians to understand.
If we say to young Christians: 'Now you are called to a
life of faith', they may think of that in a very limited
way: that they have to believe God, that God is able to
save, that God is able to keep, that God is able to
provide. That is all true, but we are going to see that
it means much more than that. If we say to a young
Christian: 'You are called now to live a heavenly life',
I do not know what he or she would think! What a
difficult idea that is! They would probably say: 'Well,
how can we live a heavenly life when we have to live down
here on this earth?'
let us try to help such people, and everybody else. Let
me say again that 'heavenly' and 'faith' are one thing.
going right back to the Old Testament for illustration,
and I am going to use another big word. When God took up
an instrument, in the form of a person or a people, He
always put that instrument, that person, or that people,
on a supernatural basis. He took every measure to see
that the basis of their life was a supernatural one. He
took them completely off a natural basis, and for them,
if there was not the supernatural, there was nothing at
all. They found it difficult, but it was in that way that
they learned that they had come into relation with a
supernatural God, a God who was altogether above the
natural. So God created naturally impossible situations
for these people and then, in solving the problem of the
naturally impossible, He showed them what a great Lord He
look at some illustrations. We will begin with Abraham -
and he has a large place in this Letter to the Hebrews.
Abraham was chosen by God for a very great purpose. We
shall see more about that later, but let us be content
with the simple statement of fact for the present.
Abraham was called to be the father of a race which God
was going to raise up and through which His Son, Jesus
Christ, would come. God said to him: "In thy
seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed"
(Genesis 22:18). Notice: 'In thy seed' - and
then God went away and left him and did nothing more
about it for a long time. God came back and repeated His
promise, but by then Abraham was ninety years old and his
wife was nearly as old - and yet God was saying: 'In thy
seed'. An utterly impossible situation naturally!
'Impossible!' said Sarah, 'Altogether out of the
question! We must do something about this.' And you know
what they did. They tried to do God's work on natural
lines. Sarah sent for her handmaid, Hagar, and they tried
to fulfil God's promise in that natural way. But those of
us who know our Bibles know quite well that that was not
God's way, and He was having none of it. God kept to His
own ground - supernatural ground. If this thing was ever
to be, only God all-mighty could do it. No man nor woman
could do it, and neither could both of them together.
Only God could do it - and He did it! He put them on to
supernatural ground. It was a big test of faith! It was
not earthly ground, but heavenly ground. It was not
natural ground, but the ground of faith. And that is how
God did it.
our first illustration, and that runs right through the
from Abraham and Isaac to Jacob. Jacob came into the
birthright. He was intended by God to have it - that is,
he was intended to be the next link in God's chain, the
next step of God in the onward march of His eternal
purpose, but Jacob took the thing into his own hands. In
effect he said: 'I am going to do this.' So he deceived
his parent and robbed his brother... but his whole little
plan broke down. He had to leave home and go many miles
away to his uncle, and for twenty years there was no sign
of God going on with His purpose. When you come on to
Jacob, at the end of that time you find a very
disillusioned man and a man who is very much afraid of
what is going to happen to him. He is making plans for
his own safety when he meets with his brother - and then
God meets him. You know the story of that night when God
met Jacob, Jacob, had tried to realize God's intention on
natural grounds, and God entirely destroyed those
grounds. In that night Jacob came clearly to understand
that if God was going to fulfil any purpose in his life,
only He could do it. When God changed his name from Jacob
to Israel He changed the man from the earthly to the
heavenly, from the natural man to the man of faith, and
then God went on with him. God could never go on with
Jacob while he was resting upon his own natural ground.
When God got him off that ground on to heavenly ground,
then they could go on together.
from Jacob, to Joseph. The story of Joseph is one of the
most fascinating stories of the Old Testament! A lot of
unkind things have been said about Joseph when he was a
young man. Of course, it is usually the old people who do
that! Joseph had some dreams, and, well, young men are
allowed to have dreams! You perhaps remember the dreams:
he dreamt that sun, moon and stars were bowing down to
him, and other things were doing the same. Perhaps he did
make a mistake when he told his dreams to his brothers.
They were shrewd enough to see the point, and they
interpreted the dreams as against themselves. They said:
'Are we going to bow down to you? You are our young
brother. We will never bow down to you!'
can say what you like about Joseph's indiscretion, but
those dreams became literally true. The day came when his
brothers were cringing before him, trembling for their
very lives. 'Oh, sir,' they said, 'have mercy upon us!'
Those dreams became true. There was something of God in
that, and I think that Joseph always had those dreams in
was going to come, in the will of God, to a high place,
and to serve God in a great piece of work. It was no less
than preserving alive the whole of God's chosen nation.
these brothers - well, they had a conference, and the
point of their discussion was how they could get rid of
this young brother of theirs. One of the brothers said:
'Let us kill him, and we will soak his coat in his own
blood, send it back to our father and say that a wild
beast has destroyed him.' Another brother said: 'No,
don't let's kill him. Let us put him into a pit.' So they
put him into a deep pit. It was just another way of
killing him - to let him die there. They left him and
went off. Then they saw some camels coming and a caravan
passing across where they were. So they decided to take
Joseph out of the pit and sell him. Accordingly they sold
him to these traders, who were going down to Egypt, and
he was taken and sold in Egypt as a slave. Oh, wonderful
sovereignty of God! Joseph had just got to get
down to Egypt! God had ordained that he should go, for it
was there that he was to do his great work of saving his
nation. But Joseph never thought of that way of getting
he got there, and became the slave of a great man. We
will not fill in all the details, but by the treachery of
that man's wife, Joseph was put into a dungeon and was
left there for years. Where were his dreams now? The
whole situation was quite impossible - but God had made
it so. This whole purpose could never be realized on
natural grounds. It could only be realized on
supernatural ground - and if ever a man was put on
supernatural ground, that man was Joseph! But this
transition from the earthly to the heavenly, from the
natural to the life of faith, was a difficult passage. It
was very hard on the flesh - and it always is! But the
supernatural Lord did it. No one could ever say that
Joseph did it, or put it down to a man. Only God could do
it. It was on supernatural ground, on heavenly ground,
not earthly. It was the way of faith and not of sight.
suppose I ought to put in a very large section here on
Israel. That nation, saved through Joseph was after many
years found in slavery itself in Egypt. God had said to
Abraham that they would be in Egypt as slaves for four
hundred years, but that they would come out of that
slavery. He would bring them out by a mighty hand.
However, they were here in Egypt and things were going
from bad to worse, and from worse to awful. The whole
situation was as hopeless as it could be, and to make it
as impossible as could be, Pharaoh decided to kill all
the little boys that were born at that time. I need not
tell you the rest of the story! "At that season",
it says, "Moses was born"
(Acts 7:20). Moses was born at that impossible time,
and will you tell me that it was not a supernatural thing
that he was preserved alive when all the boys were being
massacred? It was on supernatural ground, not natural, on
heavenly ground, not earthly. We only need just to pass
our eye over the account of the deliverance of the people
of Israel from Egypt - what we call the 'Exodus' - and,
my, what a difficult situation it was! Pharaoh had
employed all his resources to prevent those people from
going out. There was nothing he had not used to make the
exodus impossible, but God stepped in when the situation
was at its darkest and brought them out with a strong
hand, as He had said He would all those years before. The
exodus was on supernatural ground.
story of the forty years in the wilderness is the same.
If you do not believe it was supernatural, go and try
living in a wilderness for forty years! Go especially to
that wilderness! I have passed over it a number of times
in an aeroplane and I have said: 'How on earth could a
nation live in this for forty years?' The answer was:
they did not 'on earth' at all. They did it from heaven.
God fed them and protected them from heaven. In every way
it was a heavenly life. It was not natural: it was God.
He had put that nation on to a supernatural basis.
to the end of that time and go on to Joshua. We know what
he had to face! There were all those strong and very
wicked nations in the land of Canaan, and Joshua had got
to lead the people in, take possession of the land and
drive out all those nations. Do you think that could have
been done naturally? No, God took over and the people of
Israel went in. They crossed the Jordan when it was
overflowing all its banks, and they went over with dry
feet. The rest of the story is known to you.
on many years and come to the book of Judges. We will
just take one illustration from that book. Israel was now
being beset by other very strong nations and the time
came when the Midianites, as many "as the
sand which is upon the sea shore for multitude"
(Judges 7:12), gathered around Israel. The situation
was anything but easy! The Lord called Gideon and told
him that he was to go out against this combination of
armies and that he would deliver Israel from them. Gideon
said: 'This wants a big army', so he sent out to all
Israel and got a very big army together - at least, it
was what was called a big army then. He had twenty-two
thousand men. But the Lord said to Gideon: 'You have too
big an army. It is quite true that all these other
enemies are many, many times more than your army, but
your army is too big.' So Gideon put a test to them, and
a great multitude went home and left him with a much
smaller army. And the Lord said: 'They are still too
many.' Surely He is moving Gideon on to heavenly ground!
When God had finished with Gideon he had just three
hundred men, and He said: "By the three
hundred men... will I save you" (Judges
7:7) - and He did it.
how He put Gideon on to heavenly, supernatural ground. It
was a very testing thing for Gideon! Do you tell me that
that was not faith? Faith and the heavenly go together.
beginning to see the meaning of what is heavenly and what
is faith? Faith is, that heaven can do what no man or men
can do. Nothing is impossible to heaven in any
circumstances or situation.
that is not all. You remember that later Israel went into
captivity in Babylon, and they were there for seventy
years. At the end of that time they were in a very poor
state, but when it was put to them that the time had come
for them to return to their country the great majority
said: 'No, it is impossible. It is no use going back
there. The whole situation is hopeless. The land is in
desolation and the city is destroyed. We have not got the
heart for it.' But a remnant returned, and you know the
details of how God came in for them in a sovereign way.
He provided for them all that they needed and helped them
in marvellous ways, so that they rebuilt the city and
their temple and made their land productive again. But it
was a supernatural thing. The majority vote was
'Impossible!' The minority believed God.
shall we stop? Let us leave the Old Testament and come to
Him to whom all this was pointing - Jesus. It was all
leading on to Him. God had promised to send His Son. The
prophets were just full of the coming of the Messiah, but
the ideas about the Messiah on the part of Israel were
very natural ones: 'Of course, he will be a great ruler,
a man with tremendous power. Everyone will gather to him.
He will set up this wonderful kingdom of Israel and the
Romans will be thrown out of our country.' That was their
natural idea of their Messiah - but when He came there
was no room for Him at His birth, and the ruling
authority of that time started the old game of killing
all the little boys, with the special object of getting
his hands upon this one boy. The very survival of Jesus
was a heavenly miracle! His birth was a heavenly thing, a
supernatural thing, and the same was true of His life.
How many times do we read: 'They took counsel that they
might kill Him', and 'They took up stones to stone Him'?
His fulfilling of His ministry was a heavenly thing. It
about His death? They took counsel to kill Him and
decided they were going to do it. Then they said: 'We
won't do it at the Passover. That will be the wrong
time'... and God said: 'I have this matter in hand. It
will be My matter and not yours. It will be on exactly
the day that I choose, and that will be the day of the
Passover.' Jesus said about His dying: "No man
taketh it (My life) away from me, but I lay it down of
myself. I have power to lay it down and I have power to
take it again. This commandment received I from my Father"
(John 10:18). He was saying that when it happened it
would not be in man's hands, it would be in God's hands.
And in spite of their decisions and their counsels, it was
on the day of the Passover! It had to be. Many, many
generations were involved in that. The death and
resurrection of Jesus Christ were supernatural - not of
man, but of God.
go on from that to the Church. The whole history of the
Church, from its beginning on the Day of Pentecost, is a
miracle. It was persecuted in its early years and there
were many massacres of Christians. The Roman Empire
decided that Christianity must be wiped out from the
earth, and at that time, and many times since, the Church
has passed through very, very serious crises. But the
Church of God marches on! It is still here and it is
still growing. It is supernatural.
all this? This is not something which is peculiar to
Abraham, Moses, Joshua and Gideon. It is not something
which is limited to these men of the Old Testament. This
Letter to the Hebrews is written to Christians. It is
written for us, and it says that we are "holy
brethren, companions of a heavenly calling". We
are the companions of Christ, but God has put us on the
same basis as that on which He always did put His people.
older Christians know quite well from experience what I
am talking about. How often in our history have
situations arisen - not that we have brought about -
which were quite impossible! We say: 'God allowed them.'
Perhaps we ought to say: 'God appointed them.' God has
put our lives on this basis, Our salvation is a
supernatural thing or it is nothing! Poor Nicodemus, the
man who could not see further than nature, with all his
intelligence, said: "How can a man be
born when he is old?" (John 3:4). Our
new birth is a miracle, our sustenance in the Christian
life, that is, being able to keep going, is a miracle;
and our survival and our triumph in many and many an
impossible situation are supernatural. And at last our
translation to glory will be supernatural. You may die
naturally, but you will not naturally rise again. That
will be God's doing. And if it is going to be true that
we share His glory, we, who know ourselves, would gladly
say: 'That will be a miracle! A creature such as I am
sharing the glory of Jesus Christ for all eternity! My,
that will be supernatural!'
the meaning of faith - just that you believe that heaven
can do what no one else can do. Faith is a very practical
thing. A whole situation is naturally hopeless. What are
we going to do about it? Are we going to give it all up
and say: 'It is impossible. This is the end of
everything. We are finished'? Or are we going to say:
'Yes, it is like that naturally, but God... but
heaven...' Heaven is greater than earth and God is
greater than all.
the message of this Letter to the Hebrews. I hope you
understand a little better what it means to live a
heavenly life. It is living on the resources that heaven
has for us when all other resources have gone.